Even after weeks of practice, it’s never easy to prepare for what a Friday night — or a Saturday morning — could bring. But BJ Payne and the Hilton Head High Seahawks were ready to put their best foot forward in a brunch battle after being postponed a night earlier.
Owen Bayes tossed two touchdown passes while adding another score on the ground, and the Seahawks overcame the scorching midday heat Saturday to down visiting Battery Creek 34-15 in their season opener.
“Winning is a hard thing to do,” Payne said. “A lot of changes and adversity from last night to come back today. Owen is a kid with a ton of moxie and he carries it with him extremely well. He did a great job today.”
The game was originally scheduled to be played on Friday night, but heavy thunderstorms pushed the contest to Saturday morning. Instead of a spectacle under the lights to begin the season, it became a morning grinder under the grueling August sun. Both defenses dominated in the opening minutes, with Hilton Head’s Shai Thompson making a strong early presence.
Competing for his starting job with teammate Jackson Bibee, junior Owen Bayes got the offense churning in his second series. After getting backed up on a holding call, Bayes hit Jake Huggins for a 16-yard gain before a Creek offside penalty on fourth-and-5 netted a first down. Payne may not have had workhorse Chase McCracken anymore, but sophomore Troy Timko showed off his power to finish off the drive, scoring on a 10-yard run to put the home team in front.
Hilton Head’s defense continued to stymie the Dolphins for the rest of the opening quarter, as Caleb Spangler swatted away a Damien Freeman pass to force a punt. But Bibee saw his pass to the end zone intercepted by Dion Smith, and the Dolphins found paydirt with Jeremiah Mceachin to flip the script. After a false start backed up Battery Creek to the Seahawk 20, Mceachin took the handoff and stormed past the Hilton Head defense to knot the game at 7.
The Seahawks responded on the very next drive. With Bayes back under center, Hilton Head High drove 64 yards in 10 plays finished off by some magic as Bayes hit the cutting KJ Holland on the right sideline and the senior did the rest, breaking a pair of Dolphin tackles before finding the end zone for a 15-7 lead.
The Seahawks got it right back on a sneak onside kick but couldn’t replicate the preceding drive with Bibee at the helm as the half came to an end. Hilton Head cashed in on a takeaway to start the third quarter on a Chase Collins fumble recovery, and the Bayes-Holland connection struck again on fourth down to complete an 11-play touchdown drive and go up two possessions.
After another quick defensive stop fueled by a sack from Wake Forest commit Chris Marable, the Seahawks added to the lead again. Timko converted a key first down with a 12-yard gain, Bayes hit Huggins on the next play to get inside the 11, and Tristen Simmons finished off the drive with a five-yard scamper through a gaping hole for a commanding 28-7 lead.
The visitors found a spark from their signal caller to make it a game again. Freeman broke loose on a run down the left sideline and sped to the end zone for an eye-popping 78-yard score, and added a two-point try to narrow the margin to 28-15 heading into the fourth, but Payne’s Seahawks closed it out with some hard work in the ground game and on defense, adding a key touchdown on a Bayes quarterback sneak to put the game away.
Bayes put together an excellent game under center, completing 14 of 20 passes for 141 yards and two scores alongside 20 rushing yards and a touchdown. Timko led the ground game with 70 yards on 15 carries with a score and Simmons rushed nine times for 32 yards and a touchdown.
Connor Wiendl starred on the defensive side of the ball, making eight tackles with a forced fumble. Marable racked up seven tackles including a sack, and Thompson added five tackles with two for loss.
Freeman rushed for 79 yards on 11 carries for Battery Creek while finding the end zone on a 78-yard score, and Mceachin racked up 65 yards on eight carries with a touchdown.
Battery Creek (0-1) travels to Ridgeland for another Lowco-on-Lowco matchup on Friday, while Hilton Head High (1-0) heads to Claxton (Ga.).
By Wes Kerr / LowcoSports.com
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